People often complain about how the rise of social media and online culture is destroying human interaction and social skills. Although I’m sure it’s a topic that will keep psychologists and sociologists busy for at least the next several decades, social media has definitively changed the way people interact with the world, and in subscribing to the glass half full philosophy of life, I believe these new ways of connection have changed our world for the better. Yesterday a video came to my attention that represents how people can utilize the power of the Internet to make a difference in the world. It outright states that its goal is to not only change the world, but to use the power of cultural awareness to do so. By using every available form of social media, the makers of of this video are trying to bring down a dictator indicted by the International Criminal Court and listed as one of the World’s 10 Most Wanted Fugitives. One look at the online response in just the past 24 hours, and I believe anything is possible.
Kony 2012 is a film that outlines a brief history of the actions of Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda, and a wanted man for crimes against humanity. Known for kidnapping children and forcing them into either the sex trade or the ranks of child soldiers, the LRA has created almost two million refugees due to their actions since 1986. The video is produced by the charity organization Invisible Children Inc., and they detail how they aim to use social media, specifically targeting both lawmakers and culturemakers, to make Kony’s name famous, and ultimately bring him to justice. This movement includes the Cover the Night campaign, when on April 20th, 2012, people all over the world will cover their cities with images of Kony in order to bring the message of Kony 2012 to the masses. So far, #stopkony is trending worldwide, and Kony 2012 has been viewed by millions on Youtube and Vimeo.
It should be noted that Kony 2012 has been met with criticism, and although many people have pointed out valid concerns with the way this campaign is being carried out and the activities of Invisible Children, the ultimate goal of finding Kony and holding him accountable for his actions is not only admirable, but it is one that we as a global community should strive for, regardless of the methods used to raise awareness. Invisible Children’s tactics may be flawed, but they are using every tool at their disposal to get people talking and debating, and ultimately inspiring people to do something about it. Watching the view count on Vimeo jump from 8 views on March 4th to 6.4 million and counting on March 7th proves that social media not only works, but that it can be a force for good, and not just a means to update your friends about what you had for breakfast.
The past several years have seen revolutions, uprisings, and revolts against unjust governments, dictators, and rigged elections, all happening because of tools like Facebook and Twitter. Citizens have rallied to clean up cities after riots, abuses of power and scandals have been uncovered, and protest in New York that was initially ignored by the mainstream media became a global movement. Social media can change the world; it’s been proven time and time again. Regardless of the methods, today the world is talking about Joseph Kony. If enough people keep talking, at some point this year, hopefully we will all be talking about how he was caught and brought to justice.